EU level: latest working life developments Q2 2018

The European Commission’s report on the Barcelona objectives for high quality and affordable childcare, the Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on early childhood education and care systems, the main outcomes of the EPSCO Council, and the new ‘Stand up for the Social Pillar’ alliance are the main topics of interest in this article. This update reports on the latest developments in working life in the European Union in the second quarter of 2018.

High quality and affordable childcare an EU priority

On 8 May 2018, the European Commission published a report on the Barcelona objectives for high quality and affordable childcare, which were adopted in 2002. The aim was to assess to what extent Member States have progressed towards implementing these objectives since the last report in 2013. In general, the objectives have been achieved for children under the age of three within the EU28 (although important differences persist among Member States). However, they have not yet been achieved for children between the ages of three and mandatory school-going age.

The availability and use of childcare is influenced by several factors, including legal entitlement, accessibility and quality. How adaptable services are to the needs of parents, including distance to childcare facilities and opening hours, also plays an important role. As caring responsibilities are the main reason for the low level of female participation in the labour market, and this low level of participation results in a loss of €370 billion a year for Europe, the Barcelona objectives are still crucial 16 years after they were first adopted.

On 22 May, the Commission published a package aimed at boosting the role of youth, education and culture policies. One of the items in the package was the proposal for a Council Recommendation on high quality early childhood education and care systems. The aim of this proposal is to support Member States in their efforts to improve access to and quality of their early childhood education and care systems, whilst recognising that they hold primary responsibility for this area.

In this context, a possible new benchmark on the provision of early childhood education and care services will be subject to further discussion with Member States. This may include revising the Barcelona objective for the provision of formal childcare, benchmarking in the context of the European Semester, and revising the benchmark defined in the Education & Training 2020 strategic framework. The Commission will also report to the Council on how implementation of the Recommendation is progressing.

EPSCO Council agrees approach to social directives

In June, the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council agreed on a general approach to the coordination of social security systems, as well as a general approach to the directive on work–life balance for parents and carers. The Council’s position in relation to the work–life balance directive includes the following key points:

  • The directive will introduce new minimum standards for paternity leave, with fathers or second parents being able to take at least 10 working days of leave around the time of the birth of a child, paid at a level defined by the Member States concerned.
  • It will also update the existing minimum standards for parental leave, keeping the individual right of four months but adding two non-transferable months, and at least one and a half months to be paid at a level set by the Member States concerned.
  • It will introduce an individual right to carers' leave, to be defined in national legislation or practice.
  • It will extend the right for parents and carers to request flexible working arrangements until the child is at least 8 years old.

 

The Council also agreed on a general approach to the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions. This draft directive addresses challenges brought by developments in the world of work, including the growing flexibility of the labour market . The Council’s position in relation to the directive includes the following key points:

  • The directive will include revised obligations to inform workers of the essential aspects of their work, in written form and in a timely manner.
  • The timing for the receipt of this information will be reduced from two months to a week for initial basic information, and at least a month after the first working day for the rest of the information. This includes information on place of work, type of work, working time, etc.
  • If the worker's work pattern is unpredictable, the employer will still have to indicate the reference period over which the worker may be required to work and the minimum advanced notice period.
  • A number of minimum rights for workers will be defined, including the right:
    • to limit the probationary period at the beginning of a job to six months
    • to take up another job with a different employer in parallel
    • to have reasonably advanced warning of when work will take place
    • to ask for a more secure job and receive a written reply from the employer
    • to receive mandatory training with no associated cost.

The Council’s general approach also introduces an exemption for certain categories of civil servants, public emergency service workers, the armed forces, police authorities, judges, prosecutors, investigators and other law enforcement workers.

Based on these three mandates, the Council Presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament once the Parliament has adopted its position.

In the same month, the Council endorsed the agreement by EU co-legislators on the revision of the posting of workers directive. The President of the European Parliament and the President of the Council signed the legislative act on 28 June 2018.

Finally, the EPSCO Council adopted conclusions on the future of work from the perspective of a lifecycle approach. The conclusions call on Member States and the Commission to undertake a range of actions to adapt skills, education and training, and to manage new forms of work and working conditions.

News and perspectives from social partners

On 27 June, industriAll Europe and Ceemet joined the European Alliance for Apprenticeships and officially signed a pledge on apprenticeships. With this pledge, industriAll Europe (and its 181 trade union affiliates in 38 countries) and Ceemet (and its member organisations in 22 countries) commit to promoting quality and effective apprenticeship schemes in the metal, engineering and technology-based sector throughout Europe.

The ‘ Stand Up for the Social Pillar’ alliance was also formed in June. The alliance brings together social economy enterprises and organisations – including cooperatives active in industry and services, trade unions, pro-European organisations and social NGOs – to ensure that the European Pillar of Social Rights delivers results that improve people’s lives and builds support for a more social, inclusive and fairer EU. It also aims to encourage implementation of the Pillar’s principles by EU institutions, national governments and other organisations, and to promote social investments, social rights, a social economy, the adoption of legislation and democratic dialogue with policymakers.

The founding members of this alliance are CECOP – CICOPA Europe, The European Movement, The European Trade Union Confederation, Social Economy Europe and Social Platform.

Commentary

The EU co-legislators will try to work at an accelerated pace in order to reach political agreement on a number of legislative files before the end of the legislature related to working life developments. These files include the coordination of social security systems, the directive on work–life balance for parents and carers, the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions, and the European Labour Authority.

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